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Human Enhancement [Hardcover]

Julian Savulescu , Nick Bostrom

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Book Description

22 Jan 2009
To what extent should we use technology to try to make better human beings? Because of the remarkable advances in biomedical science, we must now find an answer to this question. Human enhancement aims to increase human capacities above normal levels. Many forms of human enhancement are already in use. Many students and academics take cognition enhancing drugs to get a competitive edge. Some top athletes boost their performance with legal and illegal substances. Many an office worker begins each day with a dose of caffeine. This is only the beginning. As science and technology advance further, it will become increasingly possible to enhance basic human capacities to increase or modulate cognition, mood, personality, and physical performance, and to control the biological processes underlying normal aging. Some have suggested that such advances would take us beyond the bounds of human nature. These trends, and these dramatic prospects, raise profound ethical questions. They have generated intense public debate and have become a central topic of discussion within practical ethics.Should we side with bioconservatives, and forgo the use of any biomedical interventions aimed at enhancing human capacities? Should we side with transhumanists and embrace the new opportunities? Or should we perhaps plot some middle course? Human Enhancement presents the latest moves in this crucial debate: original contributions from many of the world's leading ethicists and moral thinkers, representing a wide range of perspectives, advocates and sceptics, enthusiasts and moderates. These are the arguments that will determine how humanity develops in the near future.


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More About the Author

Professor Nick Bostrom is the Director of the Future of Humanity Institute and Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology at Oxford University.

He focuses on big picture questions for humanity: probability theory, scientific methodology/rationality, human enhancement, global catastrophic risks, moral philosophy, and consequences of future technology.

With backgrounds in physics, computational neuroscience, mathematical logic and philosophy, he has 200+ publications, including three books: Anthropic Bias, Global Catastrophic Risks and Enhancing Humans. He is currently working on a book about Intelligence Explosion.

To learn more about Nick Bostrom and the FHI, please visit: www.fhi.ox.ac.uk.

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Review

an excellent discussion by leading bioethicists of the issues raised by human enhancement. It would be excellent for use in classes devoted to spending at least a few weeks on enhancement, either at the upper-level undergraduate or graduate level. Robert Streiffer, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews Human Enhancement gives a thorough and authoritative overview of the current state of this rapidly evolving field. Greg Bognar, Mind

About the Author

Julian Savulescu is Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics, Director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, and Director of the Program on Ethics and the New Biosciences in the 21st Century School, University of Oxford Nick Bostrom is Director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford. He previously taught at Yale University in the Department of Philosophy and in the Yale Institute for Social and Policy Studies.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A few valuable ideas near the end 11 July 2009
By Peter McCluskey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book starts out with relatively uninteresting articles and only the last quarter of so of it is worth reading.

Because I agree with most of the arguments for enhancement, I skipped some of the pro-enhancement arguments and tried to read the anti-enhancement arguments carefully. They mostly boil down to the claim that people's preference for natural things is sufficient to justify broad prohibitions on enhancing human bodies and human nature. That isn't enough of an argument to deserve as much discussion as it gets.

A few of the concerns discussed by advocates of enhancement are worth more thought. The question of whether unenhanced humans would retain political equality and rights enables us to imagine dystopian results of enhancement. Daniel Walker provides a partly correct analysis of conditions under which enhanced beings ought to paternalistically restrict the choices and political power of the unenhanced. But he's overly complacent about assuming the paternalists will have the interests of the unenhanced at heart. The biggest problem with paternalism to date is that it's done by people who are less thoughtful about the interests of the people they're controlling than they are about finding ways to serve their own self-interest. It is possible that enhanced beings will be perfect altruists, but it is far from being a natural consequence of enhancement.

The final chapter points out the risks of being overconfident of our ability to improve on nature. They describe questions we should ask about why evolution would have produced a result that is different from what we want. One example that they give suggests they remain overconfident - they repeat a standard claim about the human appendix being a result of evolution getting stuck in a local optimum. Recent evidence suggests that the appendix performs a valuable function in recovery from diarrhea (still a major cause of death in places) and harm from appendicitis seems rare outside of industrialized nations (maybe due to differences in dietary fiber?).

The most new and provocative ideas in the book have little to do with the medical enhancements that the title evokes. Robin Hanson's call for mechanisms to make people more truthful probably won't gather much support, as people are clever about finding objections to any specific method that would be effective. Still, asking the question the way he does may encourage some people to think more clearly about their goals.

Nick Bostrom and Anders Sandberg describe an interesting (original?) hypothesis about why placebos (sometimes) work. It involves signaling that there is relatively little need to conserve the body's resources for fighting future injuries and diseases. Could this understanding lead to insights about how to more directly and reliably trigger this effect? More effective placebos have been proposed. Why is it so unusual to ask about serious research into this subject?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why hasn't this book been more read, and more reviewed? 30 Mar 2012
By Shalom Freedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I wonder why there are so few reviews of this book. Considering its importance for all of us it would seem to me that many more people should have taken interest in it. Is it because it is a book of academic papers and these tend to provide a great deal of jargon and difficult argument? Or is it perhaps because the whole subject is one which is somewhat difficult and even repulsive to a good share of mankind?
I don't know. I do know that the question raised of whether or not we actually know what human nature is in such a definitive way as to be able to enhance it seems to me theoretically overdone. We know enough about our powers to propose very specific 'enhancements' Bostrom speaks about the preference of most people for enhancements which are somehow seen as natural or more in accordance with our nature. He too and others speak about enhancements which might provide a certain risk.There are also questions raised in the book of the 'equality' issue and the kinds of privilege the 'enhanced' might have. It seems to me this book should be of interest to anyone who is concerned about what is presently happening to humanity. There are those who after all believe we will be at the point soon where 'artificial intelligences' somehow go beyond us, and in some way promise to replace us.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Transhumanism 13 Jun 2013
By ILoveCarlSagan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very good collection of essays. I like the idea of contrasting ideas in a single book, and Savulescu does just that. Oh, and his is one of the excellent essays in this.
Anyone interested in the sociological, moral and technological implications of the merge of humans and machines should have a peek at these essays.
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific read 20 Aug 2013
By Virginia Adams O'Connell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Wonderful collection of writing about human enhancement--thoughtful and thought-provoking. Authors engage in a cross-chapter dialogue which is enjoyable. Great addition.
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